September 16, 2014 11:19:32 am
As more than two dozen nations pledged to help Iraq fight the Islamic State militants, the United States said it was open to talking to Iran about a role in resolving the crisis, despite Washington’s earlier opposition to Tehran even attending the conference.
US Secretary of State John Kerry ruled out any military coordination with Iran, which in the end was not invited to Paris. “That doesn’t mean that we are opposed to the idea of communicating to find out if they will come on board, or under what circumstances, or whether there is the possibility of a change,” Kerry yesterday told a small group of reporters.
France and Iraq see Shiite-powerhouse Iran as an interlocutor who could bring its influence to bear in the region against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group, but some Arab states, like Saudi Arabia, disagree. The US opposed a place for Iran at the conference. But Tehran, which has political and military influence with its neighbor Iraq, still managed to be part of the conversation.
The absence of Iran underscored the conflicting sensitivities and complex politics in the region as Western countries seek to battle the Islamic State group, which has taken control of large parts of Iraq and Syria. The meeting of foreign ministers from Asia, the Middle East and the West was a first step toward deciding who does what in a multilayered offensive against the Islamic State group.
As envisioned by France and Iraq, the effort would include intensifying airstrikes, cutting off financing, and helping Baghdad cope through humanitarian aid and reconstruction. There would be no combat troops on the ground, however. As the conference began, two French jets took off over Iraq in France’s first reconnaissance missions over the country in a sign of the larger battle ahead.
Later the United States, which has led airstrikes over Iraq since August, took the first step in the planned expanded fight by launching airstrikes, going to the aid of Iraqi security forces south of Baghdad who were being attacked by enemy fighters.
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